Changing Of The Guard
Phrobis
interdictor
Paul Counts, our IT Manager, and myself flew in from Tampa yesterday. As we made our final approach over the city I was able to see a lot of houses with tarps covering the roofs, presumably due to wind damage. I also notice buildings with whole sides collapsed, street signs blown horizontal and fast food chains destroyed from the winds that flowed through this city less than three weeks ago.

We were met at the airport by Mike, aka Interdictor, the previous poster on this blog. We jumped in his car and headed for the Westbank, as parts of the I-10 are still impassable due to flooding. We crossed the Huey P Long bridge and took the Westbank Expressway. When we reached a checkpoint just before the GNO bridge over the Mississippi River they waved us on through without checking our credentials, even though they stopped almost everyone else. I assume this was because Mike was wearing a US Military hat.

Once in the Central Business District, I started to notice the destruction that is seen on television reports. Witnessing it first-hand is overwhelming. Complete walls of buildings have collapsed upon themselves, trash and dirt and grime all over the streets and the air is filled with a stench. With the exception of contractors, military vehicles and police, there was no one else on the streets. All traffic laws have been thrown to the wayside. One way streets are now two way and it is also wise to stop at all intersections to avoid colliding with a humvee. Overhead, Apache and Blackhawk helicopters fly recon over the city.

We were able to enter the office building without any problems. I was shocked to see the disarray of the offices and build room, both of which were nice and tidy before the wrath of Katrina overtook the city. I guess organized chaos ensues when you have people trying to survive without electricity and running water for two weeks. It didn't really hit me until then that this would be my home for the next 7 days.

I am not sure what the Mayor was thinking when he said he would allow certain parts of the city to return home this week. Paul and I drove to my place in the Lower Garden District just before curfew yesterday. The streets were abandoned. Houses boarded up with Keep Out signs, dates of departure, family names, etc. A large oak tree has fallen on the power lines and my neighbors house across the street. Packs of stray dogs were running the street in search of food. We watched cautiously as they chased a cat up a tree. I was afraid that we could become their next meal.

Luckily, my house was spared for the most part. The ceiling has collapsed in my bedroom, but there was not much more damage other than a musty smell. I was able to gather up some of my important documents, some canned food and my camera. The cat I was there to retrieve appeared to have already been rescued by one of the many organizations I contacted in the previous weeks. The front window was busted out and the only thing missing was the cat himself and the cat carrier. I am not sure where he is. At least I can hold on to some hope that he is alive, although I have pretty much accepted the fact that I may never see him again.

The last 24 hours have been spent assessing the situation in the data center and our offices from a technical and logistical standpoint. Paul and I went outside this morning to take photos of the building where windows had been blown out on our floor. we had to walk down the medium, as there is still falling glass in area. It was worse than we expected. Eleven windows will need to be completely replaced this week by contractors who are working for the building management. Unfortunately, we are not sure how we are going to tackle this situation. One of the big problems is dust. In order for the windows to be replaced, the drywall, which was placed over the windows when the data center was built out, will have to be knocked down before the windows can be replaced from within. This will put dust in the air, which could gravely affect the web servers, switches, routers and AC units.

The other issue is the location of the broken windows. Several of the windows are located in front of walls with electrical outlets, large electrical grounding plates, and even in front of steel-reinforced door frames. We also have several windows in need of attention in the Networks Operation Center (NOC) which are in front of large desks. We will need to disassemble the desks completely in order to make way for the contractors. Not a fun job!

We also have to figure out a way to move 21 large barrels of diesel up nine stories to the generator cage in the parking garage without a truck. Im hoping that we will be able to find someone with a truck to help us later in the week. Otherwise we will need to wheel them up on a handtruck individually, a Herculean conquest no matter which way you look at it!

As for living conditions, it could be a lot better, but its definitely not as bad as those who came before us. At least we have electricity throughout the building and can make use of the elevators. We even have a makeshift shower set up in the restroom, though I think I am going to refrain from using it as long as possible. Its rather rudimentary. Besides, Im hoping to take advantage of the situation and work on growing some dreads.

And speaking of the loo, a fresh, clean, cooled restroom is the one amenity I miss. There is no water pressure in the building, which means the AC does not work outside of the data center and our office. It also means that we cant flush. Put those two together, and its not a very rosy situation. The temperature is well over a hundred degrees in the restrooms and we have to systematically use each toilet on each floor and work our way down. Currently, we are using the johns on 25, but will soon have to move down to 24. At least Im only here for 6 more days. No mexican food for me this week!

On a more humorous note, an ambulance stopped next to Paul and I when we were out taking pictures of the building. When the EMT rolled down his window all I could think was that he was going to reprimand us for playing in the street, ask us if we needed help or something else along those lines. Having lived in NOLA for 10 years, I have to say that his questions was one that I had heard and answered almost daily since moving here, but one which I did not expect on this very day and considering the situation of the city. So yes, I was completely taken aback when he asked us how to get to Bourbon Street! I guess rescue workers need to kick back, have a beer and watch some college football just like anyone else!

OK,. Need to figure out how to deal with our glass replacement issue and get to work. Just wanted to let everyone know all is well and that replacements had been sent in. The guys before us deserve a lot of praise. They did a great job holding it all together. Now the cleanup begins.

Cheers!

Daniel Gifford
Manager of Network Operations

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